Must-Read NYT: “How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections”

Nick Corasantini and Reid Epstein for the NYT:

Lonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and appoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

Ms. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

G.O.P. lawmakers in Georgia say the new measures are meant to improve the performance of local boards, and reduce the influence of the political parties. But the laws allow Republicans to remove local officials they don’t like, and because several of them have been Black Democrats, voting rights groups fear that these are further attempts to disenfranchise voters of color.

The maneuvers risk eroding some of the core checks that stood as a bulwark against former President Donald J. Trump as he sought to subvert the 2020 election results. Had these bills been in place during the aftermath of the election, Democrats say, they would have significantly added to the turmoil Mr. Trump and his allies wrought by trying to overturn the outcome. They worry that proponents of Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories will soon have much greater control over the levers of the American elections system.

Share

“Convention circuit of delusion gives forum for election lies”

AP:

For a few hours last weekend, thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters came together in a field under the blazing Wisconsin sun to live in an alternate reality where the former president was still in office — or would soon return.

Clad in red MAGA hats and holding “Trump 2021” signs, they cheered in approval as Mike Lindell, the MyPillow creator-turned-conspiracy peddler, introduced “our real president.” Then Trump appeared via Jumbotron to repeat the lie that has become his central talking point since losing to Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes: “The election was rigged.”

Lindell later promised the audience that Trump would soon be reinstated into the presidency, a prospect for which there is no legal or constitutional method.

In the nearly five months since Trump’s presidency ended, similar scenes have unfolded in hotel ballrooms and other venues across the country. Attorney Lin Wood has told crowds that Trump is still president, while former national security adviser Michael Flynn went even further at a Dallas event by calling for a Myanmar-style military coup in the U.S. At the same conference, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell suggested Trump could simply be reinstated and a new Inauguration Day set.

Taken together, the gatherings have gelled into a convention circuit of delusion centered on the false premise that the election was stolen. Lindell and others use the events to deepen their bond with legions of followers who eschew the mainstream press and live within a conservative echo chamber of talk radio and social media. In these forums, “evidence” of fraud is never fact-checked, leaving many followers genuinely convinced that Biden shouldn’t be president.

“We know that Biden’s a fraudulent president, and we want to be part of the movement to get him out,” said Donna Plechacek, 61, who traveled from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, with her sister for the event. “I know that they cheated the election. I have no doubt about that. The proof is there.”

State election officials, international observers, Trump’s own attorney general and dozens of judges — including many Trump appointed — have found no verifiable evidence of mass election fraud. Indeed, Trump’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency called the election “the most secure in American history” and concluded there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

But Plechacek is not alone. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that two-thirds of Republicans, 66%, think Biden’s victory was not legitimate, while CNN found in April that 70% of Republicans do not think Biden won enough votes to be president. Half, 50%, said there is solid evidence to support that claim.

Share

“EXCLUSIVE: Georgia releases list of 102K voter registrations to be canceled”

AJC:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Friday made public the names of nearly 102,000 people who are at risk of having their Georgia voter registrations canceled, a warning before they lose their ability to vote next month.

The mass cancellations, called voter “purges” by their critics, target registered voters who moved or didn’t participate in elections for several years.

Fewer voter registrations are being canceled this year than in 2017, when 534,000 were eliminated from Georgia’s voter rolls during the largest removal of registrations in U.S. history. Most of the state’s outdated registrations were already canceled in prior years.

Share

“Key Pennsylvania state senator backs Arizona-style election audit”

Spotlight PA:

 The Pennsylvania state senator in charge of a key election committee is backing an audit of the November presidential contest similar to Arizona’s partisan ballot review, four days after former President Donald Trump called him out and claimed he was dragging his feet.

Despite two audits and assurances from every level of government that the election was free of widespread fraud, Sen. David Argall (R., Schuylkill) told Spotlight PA he does not see the “damage in doing it one more time to try to answer the concerns that people have.”

But such an effort, particularly if advanced by just one political party, will be sure to attract criticism and come with critical questions, including how much it would cost, who would pay for it, and why it would be any more trustworthy than the widely accepted audits already completed.

Share

TPM: von Spakovsky Involved with Group That Originated Crazy Conspiracy Theory that Italian Defense Contractor Changed Votes from Trump to Biden (via Satellite!) During 2020 Election

Josh Kovensky for TPM:

For those ready to believe that President Trump really won re-election, there’s one particularly fantastical conspiracy theory to hang your hat on.

It’s called ItalyGate, and it offers a simple, direct, and especially implausible claim: An Italian defense contractor teamed up with the U.S. Embassy in Rome to use satellite transmissions to switch millions of Trump votes to Biden votes, thus stealing the election.

What makes this conspiracy theory especially handy among the many whackadoodle Big Lie claims is that it serves to explain why, as the former president has argued, millions of vote batches came in in the middle of the night as overwhelmingly for Biden: they were the product of a “data switch” by Italian operatives with access to advanced satellite technology.

As it turns out, the ItalyGate conspiracy theory wasn’t merely floating in the MAGA ether — another harebrained explanation for fringy Trump diehards to cling to. Revelations this week and additional reporting by TPM offer new insights into how ItalyGate sprang into existence and made it all the way to inner sanctums of the Justice Department, the White House, and perhaps to Trump himself.

Much of the story still remains a mystery that’s been lost in the haze of the right-wing fever swamps, but TPM was able to identify several people and companies that played key roles in promoting the theory.

Among them is a Florida non-profit called Nations in Action, on whose board conservative lawyer and noted voter fraud alarmist Hans von Spakovsky served. Von Spakovsky told TPM that he resigned from the group two days after the Capitol insurrection, and did not reply to a further inquiry about what he did for Nations in Action. Two companies controlled by a Virginia realtor and onetime Somali hostage negotiator named Michele Ballarin also played key roles in promoting the theory.

It remains unclear how the theory went from Ballarin and Nations in Action to the White House, though the Nations in Action chief said in an emailed statement to TPM that she told Trump about the allegations at Mar-a-Lago on Christmas Eve. Emails released by Congress this week show then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushing senior DOJ officials to investigate the theory, sending along a YouTube video that elaborated on it as well as an Italian-language letter with a translated copy purporting to back up the allegations.

Share

“American Samoans are the latest victims of these ignorant Supreme Court rulings”

Steve Vladeck for MSNBC Opinion:

The principle that anyone born in the United States is an American citizen is enshrined in the 14th Amendment. But in a divided decision Tuesday, a federal appeals court reaffirmed the unique inapplicability of the citizenship clause to one of America’s six federal territories— American Samoa, the only one of the six where birthright citizenship does not currently apply.

The ruling in Fitisemanu v. United States doesn’t just rest on a deeply flawed understanding of the 14th Amendment. It also breathes new life into a long since discredited distinction that the Supreme Court drew in the early 20th century — one in which territories that just happened to be predominantly white received full constitutional protections, while those that were not … didn’t.

Share

“Opinion: Manchin’s voting rights compromise is great — except it doesn’t take on ‘election subversion’”

Ned Foley WaPo column.

But other pieces of S. 1 that don’t make Manchin’s list deserve to be added. S. 1 has a section that would require voter-verified paper ballots, meaning voters have the opportunity to review an official paper record of their votes no matter what computer technology is employed to cast ballots. That’s an important way to protect the accuracy of ballot-counting, which is increasingly under threat. Another useful section of S. 1 provides grants to states to conduct risk-limiting audits, a recently developed statistical technique for checking the integrity of vote tallies.

The one overarching deficiency in Manchin’s laudable proposal is its lack of attention to the escalating risk of “election subversion,” the term that election-law expert Richard L. Hasen and others use to describe how Trump-inspired Republicans in battleground states are positioning themselves to undermine vote-counting.

The “audit” of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona by the state GOP — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) notably called it “an effort to subvert democracy” — could become a model for Trump’s acolytes elsewhere to perpetuate his claim that he was robbed of the election. It’s essential that Congress prevent the methods being used in Arizona, involving one party taking possession of ballots in violation of generally accepted chain-of-custody requirements, becoming the means by which state officials try to repudiate results they don’t like in 2022 and 2024.Congress could guard against this danger by requiring states to satisfy basic chain-of-custody standards. Each house of Congress ultimately has the power under the Constitution to verify vote tallies in elections to that chamber. Therefore, as long as Congress can keep the integrity of ballots intact while they remain in the hands of state officials, Congress can assure an accurate count of those ballots — assuming that Congress itself will count votes honestly.

There is no such chain-of-custody provision on Manchin’s list. But it isn’t in S. 1 either.

Congress can defer this issue to a later bill, but lawmakers won’t be finished safeguarding democracy before the midterms until Manchin can broker a deal on protections for counting, not just casting, votes.

The more Republicans who join Manchin, the better. But the obligation of bipartisanship in electoral reform extends only to the “loyal opposition” — not to an opposition hostile to democracy itself.

Share

Before Texas Filed in Supreme Court in Trump Election Case Kris Kobach Pushed Louisiana to File to Overturn Election Results Based on Absurd Legal Theories and Weak Evidence (via TPM Exclusive)

Big Tierney Sneed report for TPM:

Before Texas filed a lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to block President Biden’s win in four battleground states, a draft of the petition was circulated to the Louisiana attorney general’s office.

The template then was very similar to what was eventually filed by Texas on Dec. 8. Much of the same language proposed in the draft lawsuit made it into the final Texas complaint, and certain sections of the two versions are almost word-for-word the same.  But there was one main difference. It was written to be filed by Louisiana, as well as some yet-to-be-determined states, listed as states “A” and “B.” The draft complaint left template language for the future plaintiff state for fill in its lawyer and contact info. It also targeted six battleground states that went for Biden, while the final Texas version only sued four.

As the New York Times previously reported, a group of lawyers seeking to reverse Trump’s loss had turned to Louisiana in late November to bring a case before the Supreme Court, after they had initially been rebuffed by the Texas attorney general’s office. The previously-unreleased draft of the lawsuit they floated to Louisiana’s attorney general was recently obtained by TPM, via a public records request filed by the left-leaning watchdog group American Oversight. Internal communications between the Louisiana office and the Trump-aligned lawyers, which included a former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, were also obtained in American Oversight’s request and shared with TPM.

They show how Kobach repeatedly pestered Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office and what materials were used to pitch Landry on bringing the lawsuit. Much of the content of the emails is redacted. But, as the New York Times reported, the outreach to Attorney General Landry was part of a larger campaign that targeted Republican attorneys general who had previously aligned themselves with Trump. Landry was one of nine attorneys general part of a group called Lawyers for Trump, and at the time also led the Republican Attorneys General Association.

Yet, the newly-obtained emails show how Landry’s associate, Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill, tried to keep at arms’ length the lawyers who were pushing the election-reversal lawsuit.

Share

“Joe Manchin and the Magic 50th Vote for Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill”

Carl Hulse NYT analysis:

Democrats and progressive activists who have been working for months on a sweeping voting rights bill quickly embraced on Thursday a new, far narrower plan suddenly put forward by Senator Joe Manchin III, their party’s sole holdout on the issue.

Their decision to do so did nothing to improve the chances that the legislation could get through the Senate, but it reflected another significant goal for Democrats: uniting the party around what it has billed as its highest priority and showing that, were it not for Republican opposition and the filibuster, the elections overhaul would become law.

Much to the growing consternation of Senate Republicans, the alternative ideas put forward by Mr. Manchin — a centrist from West Virginia and the only Democrat who has refused to support what is known as S. 1 — quickly gained traction with progressive Democrats and activists, most notably Stacey Abrams, the voting rights champion in Georgia.

On Thursday, she praised his plan, even though it is more limited in scope than the original Democratic measure. The proposal would make Election Day a holiday, require 15 days of early voting and ban partisan gerrymandering, among other steps….

With a test vote on the measure looming next week, Mr. Manchin’s opposition to the voting rights measure threatened to be a major embarrassment for Democrats. Republicans were eager to pounce and proclaim that with Mr. Manchin on their side of the vote tally, it was the opposition to the bill that was bipartisan, not the legislation itself.

So if Mr. Manchin could be brought on board by granting him some pride of authorship on provisions Democrats deemed reasonable and worthwhile, they appeared more than ready to agree. As Mr. Schumer took procedural steps to set up a vote on the elections bill as early as Tuesday, a spokesman was quick to note that the measure being put on the floor could “act as the vehicle for the voting rights legislation being discussed with Senator Manchin.”

With Mr. Manchin’s support, Democrats could then claim at least a symbolic victory, if not a legislative one, when Republicans block the bill through a filibuster….

Though some Republicans had previously expressed willingness to talk to Mr. Manchin about a potential elections compromise, it seemed impossible to imagine even a few — let alone 10 — of them siding with Democrats on a measure that was eliciting such wrath. Mr. Blunt indicated there was no conceivable Democratic bill he could support.

In a show of the depth of the party’s opposition and outrage, 15 other Republicans joined Mr. McConnell at a news conference on Thursday. One by one, they impugned the measure and the Democrats for backing it, vowing to defeat it.

Share

“Schumer’s false claim that no Democrats supported new voting restrictions”

WaPo fact checker:

We just fact-checked three of the Republican governors —in Arizona, Florida and Georgia — who signed restrictive voting laws, finding that some of their comments about those laws are misleading.

Here, what got us fact-checking was Schumer’s claim that none of these laws “passed with bipartisan support, not one.”

In five of the states Schumer listed, the new voting measures he is referring to did pass with bipartisan support. For example, in Kentucky, a Democratic governor signed a Republican bill into law. In Oklahoma, a GOP-led measure also had Democratic sponsors in the legislature.

When we reached out to Schumer’s staff, we were told quickly that he misspoke in his floor speech and that he would be correcting his remarks for the congressional record. (Update, June 18: The corrected remarks now appear in the congressional record.)

Share

What a Roberts-Kavanaugh-Barrett Bloc Could Mean for the Upcoming Major Decision in Brnovich

This analysis from Joan Biskupic on emerging Roberts-Kavananaugh-Barrett SCOTUS bloc seems right on.

Indeed, I’ve been telling reporters covering Brnovich (voting rights case) that we could see a similar dynamic much like the 2008 Crawford voter id decision. In Crawford, Justice Stevens created a bloc with Roberts and Kennedy that was more restrained than the Scalia-Thomas-Alito bloc in upholding Indiana’s voter id law. It let some challenges continue to go forward; Scalia would have cut them all off.

That bloc along with the three liberal dissenters in Crawford preserved some voter id challenges. We could see the same thing in Brnovich. Plaintiffs lose, but the middle bloc preserves some Section 2 vote denial claims under the VRA. It’s the best case scenario I envision

Share

“Biden has big fears about voting restrictions and finds few tools to deal with it”

Politico:

The White House says it’s using every tool it has to draw attention to restrictive voting laws being passed in GOP-led states across the country, including potential legal challenges. Administration officials say Biden talks about attacks on voting access in all of his major speeches to send a signal not just to voters, but to those in power, that it’s a personal priority. And though the decision to give Vice President Kamala Harris the voting rights portfolio was interpreted as a sign that the White House viewed the issue as intractable, senior officials insist that giving her “convening power” actually demonstrated how seriously they’re taking it….

But the most far-reaching actions of Biden’s administration are unlikely to come from inside the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Instead, the Department of Justice will be central to the president’s battle with states that pass new election laws that restrict access to the ballot.

“Enforcement of the laws that we have, even as we push for more extensive legislative support, is critical,” said Justin Levitt, White House senior policy adviser on democracy and voting rights. Levitt, who worked at the Justice Department in the Obama administration, quickly added that the enforcement decisions “are entirely within” Attorney General Merrick Garland’s hands. . . .

“Without new federal legislation, the biggest lever the Biden Administration has is [the] DOJ,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California, Irvine. The Justice Department can file suit under the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, National Voter Registration Act and other laws “to ensure that federal law protecting voting rights and a fair election process are followed,” he said.

“This is not as good in terms of protecting voting rights as preclearance, killed by the Supreme Court in 2013,” said Hasen, referring to sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down in a decision known as Shelby v. Holder. “But it is better than nothing.”

Share

“How to Use Ranked-Choice Voting to Help or Hinder N.Y.C. Mayoral Candidates”

Rob Richie NYT oped:

New York City has embarked on the biggest ranked-choice voting election in American history with the Democratic primary for mayor on Tuesday. Plenty of New Yorkers are looking for advice on how to fill out their ballots to help their favorite candidates — or to try to block other candidates they don’t want in City Hall.

As a longtime planner and champion of ranked-choice voting, I’ve pulled together some guidance for marking your ballot for a variety of scenarios involving the mayoral candidates, in particular Eric Adams, Maya Wiley, Kathryn Garcia, Andrew Yang and Scott Stringer. But first, the good news for voters: This is not rocket science.

The system is designed for voters to express themselves and arrive at a consensus candidate. Because voting to get the results you want is so intuitive, ranked choice has become the nation’s most popular new electoral reform after successful uses in elections in Maine for president and Congress, mayoral elections in more than a dozen cities and elections for leaders of many major associations.

Among the upsides: In Tuesday’s primaries, races up and down the ballot have multiple candidates of color and women, and in ranked-choice voting, none of them have to worry about split votes. That term describes what often happens when two or more candidates appealing to the same voters run in an election and the votes are divided, causing neither to win. This helps to explain why RepresentWomen and FairVote show sharply rising success for underrepresented candidates.

The best advice is simple: Rank your favorite candidate first, your second favorite second and so on until you reach New York’s maximum of five ranked candidates. If you rank five, you’ll have cast your most expressive ballot ever.

Share

“GOP crushes Manchin’s hopes for elections compromise”

Politico:

Senate Republicans spent months praising Joe Manchin for his insistence on cross-party compromise. Next week they will almost surely end his hopes for a bipartisan deal on elections.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed all 50 Republicans would oppose Sen. Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) slimmed-down elections compromise, which focuses on expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. And it’s not clear there’s a single Republican vote to even begin debate on the matter, potentially dooming Manchin’s proposals before they can even make it into the bill.

Both Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said they would likely oppose a procedural vote next week that would bring Democrats’ massive elections reform bill to the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate could amend the bill to adopt Manchin’s changes. But Romney said supporting that strategy “doesn’t make a lot of sense to me” and Murkowski said “Joe hasn’t briefed me on any of this.”

“It needs to be blocked,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who praised Manchin last week for “saving our country” in encouraging bipartisanship. “I’m not optimistic that they could make enough changes to that to make it a fair bill. It would usurp the rights of the states.”

The apparent blanket Republican opposition to bringing Democrats’ legislation to the floor and potentially amending it — as the Senate’s swingiest vote desires — moves the voting rights debate to a new phase. Schumer told Democrats at a Thursday caucus meeting that the vote on the elections bill will be Tuesday, June 22, according to a source familiar with the meeting. That bill will need 60 votes to proceed over a filibuster….

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who has led the GOP opposition to the elections bill because of its federalized approach to state elections, said “every one of us works for opportunities to work with Sen. Manchin.” But he added that when “Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin’s proposal, it became the Stacey Abram’s substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute.”

Share

The Republican “Triangle of Doom”

Smart Andy Kroll piece:

Over the winter and spring, I spoke to half a dozen moderate Republican members and anti-Trump GOP operatives to understand what had happened. One of them was Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an outspoken leader of the small but vocal anti-Trump faction of the party.

“It’s all about the money, man,” Kinzinger tells me. Trump may be underwater in the polls, but his base adores him more than ever, and that’s where the money is. Trump’s 2020 campaign raised nearly $229 million in small-dollar donations. After the election, as Trump whipped his supporters into a frenzy over phony election-fraud claims, he raised another $170 million in a few months’ time. The Trump base, in other words, is a spigot of campaign cash. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — she of the Jewish space-laser conspiracy theory — raised more than $3 million in the first three months of 2021 alone, one of the biggest sums of any House member. Kinzinger wasn’t the least bit surprised to see McCarthy visit Mar-a-Lago soon after the insurrection to enlist Trump for the GOP’s 2022 midterm efforts. “The fastest way to get the majority back is to raise money,” Kinzinger says.

The energy in the Trump base cuts both ways. It can also be used to instill fear — fear that if you’re insufficiently loyal to Trump, you’ll face a primary challenger and lose your seat. There’s also the fear that without Trump the party loses access to all that money from the base. Rep. Meijer tells me that Trump knows that his base is where the energy is in the Republican Party. “It’s that not-so-veiled threat — or very direct [threat] when musing about starting a third party — that ‘I’ll take my supporters and walk away,’ ” Meijer says. The GOP also has four years of evidence at the ballot box to suggest that, without Trump on the ballot, the party can’t put together a winning coalition in key swing states. Look at the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats won in a landslide, or the 2021 special elections in Georgia, when two Democratic candidates upset incumbent Republicans and flipped the Senate majority. “We really have an internal electoral calculus problem that no one knows how to solve,” Meijer says.

For now, the solution as envisioned by McCarthy and McConnell appears to be twofold: Hug Trump tightly, and try to make that a winning coalition by locking out a lot of people who aren’t in it. In the name of “election integrity” and restoring “faith” in the system, Republican state legislators have weaponized the Big Lie by introducing hundreds of voter-suppression laws in nearly every state this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. On moral grounds, this strategy is cynical and repugnant. As a political strategy, it makes perfect sense: The base reveres Trump with near cult-like adoration, and so the only way to win is to embrace Trump and his followers while making it harder to vote for everyone else.

Sarah Longwell, a never-Trump Republican who founded the group Republican Voters Against Trump, ties together all of these forces into what she calls the “Republican triangle of doom.” “There’s a toxic and symbiotic relationship between base voters, right-wing infotainment, and the politicians,” she tells me. Tucker Carlson, Newsmax, and far-right content producers on Facebook and YouTube feed their audiences a steady stream of reactionary vitriol and conspiracy theories; the base voters, gorged on right-wing infotainment, make ever more extreme and outlandish demands of their politicians; and the politicians, fearful of losing their next primary, give those voters what they want and get rewarded with money, TV airtime, and seniority in the party.

Share

“Manchin moves shake up Dem strategy for massive elections bill”

Politico:

In an interview on Wednesday afternoon, Manchin said he’d done the best he could to put together a proposal he could support. He acknowledged party leaders might not go along: “I couldn’t vote for it in the form it is. Now, whether anybody is going to change it … [the memo] might not, might not change their mind. I understand that and I respect that.”

Manchin is making clear he’s not against everything in the elections bill: He supports expanded early voting and a ban on partisan gerrymandering, according to a copy of his memo obtained by POLITICO. But he also wants new voter ID requirements and is pushing for more flexibility for state officials to remove voters from voter rolls, both of which run counter to the design of the elections bill that already passed the House….

Schumer began the process of bringing a piece of legislation shaped by Rules Committee Democrats to the floor for a vote next week, which will need 60 votes to advance. A spokesperson said that legislation could be the vehicle for changes sought by Manchin.

Among the provisions that Manchin opposes or is uneasy about in the elections bill his party’s dubbed S1 are no-excuse absentee voting and public financing of elections. And some senior House Democrats who shepherded the voting bill through their chamber are listening to the Democratic Senate’s gregarious 50th voter.

“I like a lot of what I saw,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a brief interview. He called the memo a “great first step” toward getting something into law.

The memo follows a Monday meeting attended by GOP senators as well as civil rights groups. Attendees of the Monday meeting included Sens. Lindsay Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Tim Scott (S.C.), according to senators and sources familiar with the meeting. In addition, Manchin invited Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.), and Todd Young (Ind.).

“I did it because I was asked by Sen. Manchin,” Graham said. “We have differences on S. 1 but I’d like to make voting easier. Maybe have some uniform standards on how you do mail-in balloting. There might be some things we can do … He’s always trying to find a way forward on stuff.”

Share

Joe Manchin and Computer Models

Joe Manchin’s memo outlining his views on the For the People Act includes the following policy that he supports: “Ban partisan gerrymandering and use computer models.” In light of Manchin’s centrality to the legislative process, it’s worth unpacking how computer models can be used in redistricting—and how they would be used under the current text of H.R. 1 / S. 1.

1. Proof of Concept: First, redistricting algorithms can be used to prove that a “better” map than the enacted plan could have been drawn. Suppose that the enacted plan is highly biased in a party’s favor, and that the party argues that the bias is attributable to the plan’s compliance with nonpartisan criteria: compactness, respect for county and municipality boundaries, and so on. Redistricting algorithms can then be deployed to definitively rebut this claim. If it’s possible to produce a map that’s less biased than the enacted plan, and that satisfies the nonpartisan criteria at least as well, then the enacted plan’s bias can’t be justified by those criteria.

2.  Generation of an Optimal Map: Second, well-intentioned line-drawers can use redistricting algorithms to identify an “optimal” (or at least a very good) map. Line-drawers must simultaneously follow a wide range of requirements: equal population, the Voting Rights Act, state constitutional criteria, and if H.R. 1 / S. 1 becomes law, partisan fairness and respect for communities of interest, neighborhoods, and political subdivisions. Humans are surprisingly good at achieving multiple redistricting goals at the same time. But computers are better. They can often produce maps that dominate the best human product on every specified dimension.

3. Generation of a Gerrymander: Third, by the same token, partisan line-drawers can use redistricting algorithms to find a map that’s highly advantageous for their party while still complying with all nonpartisan criteria. Again, humans are skilled at crafting gerrymanders whose districts look reasonable and violate no law. Again, though, computers are better, often coming up with maps that are even more biased (and even better-looking) than any human creation.

4. Production of a Comparison Set: Lastly, redistricting algorithms can be used to generate an ensemble of maps with which the enacted plan is compared. The usual idea is for the maps in the ensemble to perform at least as well as the enacted plan in terms of every nonpartisan goal the plan was trying to achieve—but to be created without any consideration of partisan data. After the maps have been produced, partisan data is then used to calculate the bias of both those maps and the enacted plan. If the enacted plan is more biased than most or all of the maps in the ensemble, that’s powerful evidence that the plan was designed with a partisan motive.

So which of these uses would be required, permitted, or prohibited by H.R. 1 / S. 1 (as it currently stands)? Two different provisions would encourage (though not compel) redistricting algorithms to be employed as proof of concept. First, s. 2403(b)(2)(B)(ii) states that a plan has the effect of unduly favoring or disfavoring a party if its bias exceeds a certain threshold and there exist “alternative plans, which may include, but are not limited to, those generated by redistricting algorithms,” which are less biased and still compliant with all other legal requirements. Redistricting algorithms would thus be one intuitive way to establish the existence of less biased, legally compliant, alternative maps.

Second, s. 2403(b)(4) states that no plan shall be found to violate the ban on partisan gerrymandering “unless one or more alternative plans could have complied with” the Constitution’s equal population requirement and the Voting Rights Act “without having the effect of unduly favoring or disfavoring a political party.” Again, redistricting algorithms are a logical method for demonstrating that equipopulous, VRA-compliant, reasonably fair maps could have been created.

H.R. 1 / S. 1 would further permit (without encouraging) redistricting algorithms to be used for the generation of an optimal map and/or the production of a comparison set. A commission sharing Manchin’s enthusiasm for computer models could deploy one to design a map that satisfies all legal requirements. Of course, this isn’t the only way to craft a lawful plan. Likewise, a plaintiff seeking additional evidence about an enacted plan’s partisan intent or effect could try to show that the plan is more biased than most or all of the maps in the computer-generated ensemble. But no such showing is required by H.R. 1 / S. 1, and it would often be easier for a plaintiff to prove partisan intent and effect in other ways.

Lastly, H.R. 1 / S. 1 would prohibit redistricting algorithms from being used for the generation of a gerrymander. Any such usage would plainly evince “the intent . . . of unduly favoring or disfavoring any political party.” Any gerrymander worth its salt would also exceed the bill’s bias threshold of one seat for smaller states and two seats for larger states.

It’s impossible to tell from Manchin’s cryptic reference to “computer models” whether he entirely agrees with H.R. 1 / S. 1’s current approach to redistricting algorithms. But I hope he does. In particular, I hope he doesn’t want to force plaintiffs to show that the enacted plan is more biased than most or all computer-generated maps. Despite recent technical advances, there remain significant concerns about the representativeness of computer-generated maps. If they’re not representative of the relevant universe of maps, then they’re not a suitable benchmark for comparison. Additionally, computer-generated maps created without consulting partisan data may be biased in one or another party’s favor. This bias would then be “baked in” as the legal ideal—even if it’s possible, even easy, to design unbiased maps for the jurisdiction in question. For these reasons, I hope that by “computer models” Manchin meant nothing more, and nothing less, than what’s already in H.R. 1 / S. 1.

Share

Pam Fessler, the Dean of Journalists Covering Voting Rights, is Retiring from NPR

I share the bittersweet news that Pam Fessler, who has been covering voting-related issues for NPR, is retiring July 9.

Pam has covered voting rights longer and better than anyone else on this beat. Her reporting is always deep, careful, and absent of hyperbole or rumor. It’s a politically fraught area but she manages to speak to everyone who matters and to get to the heart of these difficult issues. She’s the consummate professional, and her reporting on these issues is going to be important decades from now for understanding the historical record of our difficult times.

Pam has been with NPR for 28 years and a reporter for 47, so she’s certainly earned a rest. But the field is going to suffer without her voice. I hope she finds a way to stay involved in voting and democracy issues as she enjoys her retirement.

In addition to covering voting, Pam has also covered poverty and philanthropy at NPR. And she’s author of the award-winning book, Carville’s Curse: Leprosy, Stigma, and the Fight for Justice.

It’s truly the end of an era, and I will miss our frequent conversations about the state of, and how to improve, American elections and democracy.

Here’s to a long and healthy retirement, Pam!

Share

“F.E.C. Dismisses Case Against Democrats Over Outreach to Ukraine”

NYT:

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint by an ally of President Donald J. Trump accusing the Democratic Party and one of its former consultants of violating campaign finance laws by working with Ukraine to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign by damaging Mr. Trump’s.

An unusual bipartisan combination of members of the commission voted against pursuing a complaint filed in 2017 by Matthew G. Whitaker, a former federal prosecutor and staunch defender of Mr. Trump who was later appointed acting attorney general.

He filed the complaint after Mr. Trump and his White House began publicly calling for investigations of the matter in an effort to deflect attention from revelations that Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign advisers met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.

Mr. Whitaker claimed in his complaint that the Democratic National Committee and a consultant who had worked for it, Alexandra Chalupa, violated a prohibition on foreign donations by soliciting damaging information and statements from Ukrainian government officials about Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time….

he commission — which is composed of three members selected by each party — voted 4 to 2 in April that there was not probable cause to believe that Ms. Chalupa and the Democratic National Committee broke the law, according to documents released Wednesday.

The four commissioners voted against a recommendation by the commission’s general counsel to find probable cause that Ms. Chalupa and the Democratic National Committee violated the foreign donation ban by trying to arrange an interview in which Petro O. Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president at the time, might say something critical about Mr. Manafort.

While the four commissioners issued statements disputing the general counsel’s characterization that Ms. Chalupa’s communications with the embassy prompted the ban, they also offered very different ideological concerns.

The three Republican commissioners said in a statement accompanying the decision that they had “grave constitutional and prudential concerns” about the general counsel’s reading of the law, which they cast as an overreach. Ms. Chalupa’s communication with the embassy, they wrote, “did not ask that Ukrainian officials convey a thing of value within the meaning of a ‘contribution’ to the D.N.C.”

The Republicans were joined in voting against probable cause by Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner since 2002, who cited concerns about Russian disinformation as a basis for her vote.

Share

“Democrats Should Leap at the Chance to Take Joe Manchin’s Deal”

I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:

Sen. Joe Manchin, who thus far has opposed Democrats’ big election reform bill, has finally made his counteroffer. On Wednesday, the West Virginian proposed a series of changes to the “For the People Act” that could win his vote. Democrats should grab the deal, even though it is not perfect, is still unlikely to pass, and doesn’t yet address the greatest threat in upcoming elections: the danger of election subversion….

With new pressure on Manchin since he again backed the filibuster and stated his explicit opposition to the initial version of the For the People Act earlier this month, he finally released his counteroffer on Wednesday. It includes a number of the most important voting rights and campaign finance priorities of the original bill, including a requirement of 15 days of early voting in federal elections, automatic voter registration, limits on partisan gerrymandering, and improved campaign finance disclosure. He’s also on board with extending campaign finance provisions to communications on the internet and to currently non-disclosing “dark money” groups, prohibiting false information about when, where, and how people vote, and an updated preclearance process.

Yes, Democrats should jump at the opportunity to pass such a bill, but it is also fair to acknowledge it is far from perfect. Many of the darlings in the For the People Act are not on Manchin’s list, such as felon re-enfranchisement, public financing of congressional elections, restructuring the often-deadlocked Federal Election Commission, and limiting state voter purges. Not only would the Manchin proposal continue to allow states to engage in voter purges, it also will require some form of voter identification for voting in federal elections, though in a more relaxed form than some of the strict rules some states have enacted. It also would weaken some of the standards for restoring preclearance under the John Lewis bill, making it harder to get a jurisdiction covered by the requirement and easier for a jurisdiction to get out from under its coverage.

Again, this is a good deal being offered to Democrats, and Democrats should grab it. Voter identification is not necessarily bad, if it is implemented fairly, has ways for people lacking ID to still vote, and is funded fully by the government. Many of the items on the Democratic wishlist not here are much less urgent than what is being offered and can be pursued another time….

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the Manchin counteroffer is its failure to address the danger of election subversion—that Republicans are reworking state election laws to make it easier for partisan officials to miscount votes to alter election outcomes. A key provision of the For the People Act that works against election subversion is a requirement for all states to use paper ballots in all elections. Did Manchin leave that off the list because he was just listing highlights or because he opposes the provision? Or is it because West Virginia is one of the few states experimenting with Internet voting? I hope it is the former: having a paper record of votes that can be counted independently by courts or other neutral bodies is an essential bulwark against election subversion. And there are other provisions for fair election review that were excluded from the initial bill and that are missing from Manchin’s proposal, which need to be added as well, such as those requiring transparency in the vote counting process.

Share

“New emails detail Trump’s efforts to have Justice Department take up his false election-fraud claims”

WaPo:

President Donald Trump’s staff began sending emails to Jeffrey Rosen, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, asking him to embrace Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election at least 10 days before Rosen assumed the role of acting attorney general, according to new emails disclosed Tuesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

On the same day the electoral college met to certify the election results — which was also the day Trump announced that William P. Barr would be stepping down as attorney general — the president’s assistant sent Rosen an email with a list of complaints concerning the way the election had been carried out in Antrim County, Mich.

The file included a “forensic analysis” of the Dominion Voting Systems machines the county employed, alleging they were “intentionally and purposefully” calibrated to create fraudulent results. It also included “talking points” that could be used to counter any arguments “against us.”

“It’s indicative of what the machines can and did do to move votes,” the document Trump sent to Rosen reads. “We believe it has happened everywhere.”

The claims were false, based on a report compiled by Allied Security Operations Group, a company led by a Republican businessman who pushed baseless allegations that the 2020 election was stolen.

The email — one of several previously undisclosed records released by the Oversight Committee — sheds light on the type of pressure Trump put on the Justice Department to take up his crusade against Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.

The documents show how the president’s allies contacted multiple Justice officials as part of a campaign to reverse the outcome of the race, and how Trump sought to influence Rosen even before he stepped into the top role at the Justice Department. Once in that post, he contended with repeated attempts by the White House to use the department’s power to challenge the election results — efforts he resisted — before the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Share

California: “Federal judge tosses local lawsuit that echoed Trump claims of election fraud; Judge scolds GOP group and several failed congressional candidates for ‘undermining’ election confidence.” (Includes link to opinion)

OC Register:

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit filed by California Republicans that echoed false allegations made by former President Donald Trump about the validity of the 2020 election.

The lawsuit, filed in January by a conservative election watchdog group and 10 failed GOP congressional candidates against a slew of state and county elections officials, claimed the November election in California was rife with “mass irregularities and opportunities for fraud.”

The plaintiffs argued that such conditions have been brewing in California for years, but were exacerbated by changes made last year to make sure all voters in the state had access to a ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But those arguments, similar to claims made in dozens of other lawsuits disputing the 2020 election, were rejected.

Federal Judge Andre Birotte wrote in a 13-page ruling published Tuesday that the plaintiffs didn’t offer concrete evidence that problems affected the outcome of California’s November elections. Birotte also said he agreed with the defendants’ statement that the lawsuit amounted to “an incremental undermining of confidence in the election results, past and future.”

Defendants in the case — including officials who run elections in many California counties — welcomed the ruling and Birotte’s reasoning for the decision.

“I think the judge is concurring with what we certainly have known all along, and that is that this election was done with the most intense scrutiny I’ve ever faced,” said Neal Kelley, who has been Orange County’s Registrar of Voters for 18 years and was one of 13 county registrars named as defendants in the suit.

“All of the audits and checks and balances we have in place showed that the will of the voters was carried out,” Kelley added….

The original claim asked the judge to decertify the results of the November election. But the plaintiffs later dropped that request in an amended complaint, though they still sought an audit of paper ballots (similar to the controversial third-party audit now underway in Arizona) and a repeal of emergency orders that sent ballots to all registered voters.

The 44-page suit contains no specific claims about ballots falsely counted or harm done to any particular candidate. Instead, the plaintiffs argued that votes could have been diluted because of the potential for invalid votes to be counted.

I have posted the district court’s order at this link.

Share

“One in Three Election Officials Report Feeling Unsafe Because of Their Job”

Release:

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and the Bipartisan Policy Center today published a report on the state of the election official profession and the toll of the unprecedented attacks on these officials’ authority, credibility, and personal safety that surged in the run-up to the 2020 election and have not stopped. The report features a survey finding that one in three election officials report feeling unsafe because of their job, and one in six reported having been threatened due to their job. The authors provide solutions for the various problems facing election officials, with calls to action for local, state, and federal governments as well as social media companies and other institutions.

“Threats of violence, smear campaigns, laws and lawsuits undermining election officials at every turn – this is what the professionals who uphold our elections and democracy are facing every day,” said Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and co-author of Election Officials Under Attack: How to Protect Administrators and Safeguard Democracy. “The attacks will keep coming – and succeeding – unless there is a multipronged intervention across government and society to stop the purveyors of the Big Lie from making it impossible for election officials to do their jobs: conducting free and fair elections without partisanship.”

Election Officials Under Attack: How to Protect Administrators and Safeguard Democracy identifies four factors making election officials’ work more difficult and dangerous: threats of violence and other safety concerns; increased disinformation being spread about elections, especially online and often by public officials; rising pressure to prioritize party interests over a democratic process; and unsustainable workloads. For each problem, the authors present multiple, urgent solutions.

“The continued threats against election officials and attempts to undermine their independence months after the presidential election are antithetical to a free and fair democracy,” said Matthew Weil, director of the Election Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “There are reasonable, implementable solutions that will safeguard our elections going forward and the recommendations in this report are developed with the direct input and participation of election officials from across the country.”

The authors, election officials, and other experts will gather today online at noon ET for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s “Virtual Summit: Continuing Threats to Free and Fair Elections.” Please click here for more information or to RSVP. And click here to view a video that will be featured at the event, of election officials discussing their experiences firsthand….

Share

“California elections chief: Recall candidates must share tax returns”

Politico:

Recall candidates seeking to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom must furnish five years of tax returns, Secretary of State Shirley Weber said on Tuesday.

Weber’s advisory cemented the state’s position on a disputed piece of California election law. While some legal experts believe a law that compels candidates to release tax information does not apply to recall elections, Weber concluded that it does.

The reasoning: While courts struck down the parts of a 2019 law that would have required presidential candidates to release their taxes, the sections covering gubernatorial candidates are still on the books.

The law’s language specifically covers gubernatorial candidates “on a direct primary election ballot.” Some legal experts have concluded that shouldn’t cover recalls, which are technically special elections.

But a representative for Weber’s office said that because the state constitution and elections code do not delineate recall candidate requirements, the state would base recall candidate qualifications on primary election requirements, following a precedent set in 2003.

See also: California local elections officials: Don’t hold recall before Sept. 14.

Share

Georgia: “Could there be a takeover of the Fulton election board? Raffensperger says state is ‘frustrated'”

Savannah Morning News:

There are plenty of hoops to jump through before that can happen, though. In order to remove and replace a superintendent, the performance review board would have to find that the superintendent violated Georgia elections law three times in the last two general election cycles, or “demonstrated nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections for at least two elections in a two-year period,” the bill reads.

“No one wants to take over a county election board. But when you have a situation that’s gone on for 25 years, at some point, people say enough is enough,” Raffensperger said. “The rest of the state is getting frustrated. So are Fulton County residents. They want the results. They want them accurate. They want them on time.”

Raffensperger did note that a takeover would be a “nonpartisan” and “methodical” process, and “it probably wouldn’t happen before 2022.”

“And so that would be something that the state election board would consider, perhaps, doing an investigation — a thorough investigation, bipartisan, nonpartisan, you want to make sure you do it with a methodical process,” Raffensperger said. “If you really look at the structure of SB 202. I think that’s what you’ll find. It supports a very methodical, careful, measured response.”

Share

Ludicrous, Audacious, and Incredibly Dangerous: Read the Draft “Bill of Complaint” That President Trump Pressured the Department of Justice to File to Steal and Overturn the 2020 Presidential Election

It begins on page 33 of these documents released by the House Oversight Committee. It’s very similar to the dangerous, awful brief filed by Texas in the Supreme Court that was summarily rejected by the Court. Yes it cites debunked conspiracy theories and dubious legal theories and the Epoch Times as authority. But let’s not let the ludicrous nature of the complaint overshadow how dangerous this was: here is the President of the United States directing a lawyer to pressure the Department of Justice into filing a brief in the Supreme Court that would have enjoined the appointment of presidential electors by 5 states that Biden won (and that had already appointed electors pursuant to legal state process). This is nothing less than an attempt to use the courts to steal the election. It is brazen, and dangerous, and an affront to the rule of law. We are lucky that enough election administrators, elected officials, judges, governors and members of Congress blocked these attempts from going forward.

Share

Jack Rakove: “The framers would have been fine with sweeping national election reforms”

WaPo opinion piece:

The fate of the For the People Act is growing ever more precarious. It remains vulnerable to the whims of two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; to the massive hurdle of the filibuster; and to its own sweeping purposes. With its 10 titles and numerous subtitles, the bill offers the most ambitious program for comprehensive electoral and political reform that Americans have ever witnessed. It also marks a direct response to the turmoil that has disrupted the U.S. political system and a preemptive federal strike against the panoply of “securing the vote” laws that Republican-dominated state legislatures are considering — with the fate of American democracy seemingly resting on the outcome.

That ambition has made the legislation an easy target for criticism. (One recent example was George F. Will’s column denouncing the act as a case of “constitutional vandalism.”) In its opponents’ view, the bill encroaches too much on the legislative power of the states to comport with basic principles of federalism. The Constitution, by default, left most of the key decisions about national elections to the state legislatures. They would decide who could vote in federal elections, how members of the House and presidential electors would be selected, and how elections would be conducted.

There was one main exception to this devolution of authority: the Times, Places, and Manner Clause of Article I (or the TPM clause), which empowered Congress to “make or alter such Regulations” as the states enacted to govern congressional elections. Even that Clause could be read narrowly, though, to imply, say, that Congress might intervene when individual states failed to provide for the election of representatives, but not to design a universal scheme for the design of districts.

As a matter of historical fact, however, this tailored view does justice neither to the reasons the clause became part the Constitution nor to the larger set of problems the framers were confronting. Looking at those factors, the argument for a robust historical view of the clause grows stronger — and also the argument that the sweeping reforms Congress is considering should pass constitutional muster.

Share

“In the Ocean State, a legal dispute centers on voting rights and beach cabanas”

Boston Globe:

In the rich annals of Rhode Island legal battles, this case lacks the high-society intrigue of the Claus von Bülow murder trial or the envelope-full-of-cash evidence unveiled during the “Operation Plunder Dome” investigation of Providence City Hall.

But it’s tough to find more quintessentially Rhode Island litigation than a current lawsuit involving Bonnet Shores and its cabanas, which for generations have symbolized summer living at the beach in Narragansett.

A group of residents is suing the Bonnet Shores Fire District, claiming it’s unconstitutional for the district to prevent residents from voting if they own less than $400 worth of property. They say that restriction prevents some year-round residents from voting while giving voting rights to nonresidents who own beach cabanas — including 16-square-foot bathhouse units.

The residents first filed the suit in March 2020, but the case drew renewed attention this week when the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island filed a legal brief, tracing the history of voting restrictions in Rhode Island and blasting the idea of limiting voting rights to property owners.Get Rhode Map in your inboxA weekday briefing from veteran Rhode Island reporters, focused on the things that matter most in the Ocean State.Enter EmailSign Up

“The charter of the Bonnet Shores Fire District appears caught in a time loop that has ignored the evolution of voting rights in the United States and Rhode Island since it was first enacted in 1932,” ACLU lawyers wrote. “This relic of a period of widespread disenfranchisement is unconstitutional and cannot endure.”

But Thomas M. Dickinson, a lawyer for the Bonnet Shores Fire District, said the case hinges on whether the fire district fits into the category of government entities where a one-person-one-vote rule applies, and he argued that it does not. Rather, he said, the district is more akin to a condominium association or neighborhood association.

“The Bonnet Shores Fire District is not a fire district at all,” Dickinson said. “It does not do things that a municipality does, notably such as fighting fires, and it is not responsible for the school system, the police, or sewage disposal.”

Share

Must-Read NYT: “Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Dept. to Back Election Claims “

Katie Benner:

An hour before President Donald J. Trump announced in December that William P. Barr would step down as attorney general, the president began pressuring Mr. Barr’s eventual replacement to have the Justice Department take up his false claims of election fraud.

Mr. Trump sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers.

Another email from Mr. Trump to Mr. Rosen followed two weeks later, again via the president’s assistant, that included a draft of a brief that Mr. Trump wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court. It argued, among other things, that state officials had used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud.

The draft echoed claims in a lawsuit in Texas by the Trump-allied state attorney general that the justices had thrown out, and a lawyer who had helped on that effort later tried with increasing urgency to track down Mr. Rosen at the Justice Department, saying he had been dispatched by Mr. Trump to speak with him.

The emails, turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times, show how Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Rosen to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results.

They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s frenzied drive to subvert the election results in the final weeks of his presidency, including ratcheting up pressure on the Justice Department. And they show that Mr. Trump flouted an established anticorruption norm that the Justice Department acts independently of the White House on criminal investigations or law enforcement actions, a gap that steadily eroded during Mr. Trump’s term.

The documents dovetail with emails around the same time from Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, asking Mr. Rosen to examine unfounded conspiracy theories about the election, including one that claimed people associated with an Italian defense contractor were able to use satellite technology to tamper with U.S. voting equipment from Europe.

Much of the correspondence also occurred during a tense week within the Justice Department, when Mr. Rosen and his top deputies realized that one of their peers had plotted with Mr. Trump to first oust Mr. Rosen and then to try to use federal law enforcement to force Georgia to overturn its election results. Mr. Trump nearly replaced Mr. Rosen with that colleague, Jeffrey Clark, then the acting head of the civil division.

Share

“McConnell: ‘Highly unlikely’ I would let Biden fill supreme court seat in 2024”

The Guardian reports:

The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on Monday it was “highly unlikely” he would allow Joe Biden to fill a supreme court vacancy arising in 2024, the year of the next presidential election, if Republicans regained control of the chamber.

“I think it’s highly unlikely – in fact, no, I don’t think either party, if it were different from the president, would confirm a supreme court nominee in the middle of an election,” McConnell told Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host.

McConnell blocked Barack Obama from filling a vacancy in 2016, denying Merrick Garland, now attorney general, even a hearing after he was nominated to fill the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia.

McConnell said that was because no new justice should be seated in an election year – a position he reversed with alacrity in 2020, on the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg two months before polling day.

Ginsburg, a liberal lion, was replaced by the conservative Amy Coney Barrett, tipping the court 6-3 to the right. Major cases are coming up on abortion rights, gun control, affirmative action and more.

The article quotes this tweet of mine:

Share

Arizona: “People impersonating election officials are knocking on doors in Yavapai County, sheriff warns”

Arizona:

People are knocking on the doors of Yavapai County residents and asking how they voted in the last election, while falsely claiming to represent the county recorder’s office, sheriff’s office officials said.

The mysterious door-to-door survey, which has alarmed local officials, comes after the U.S. Department of Justice warned the Arizona Senate against plans to canvass voters’ homes as part of an unprecedented review of November’s election. Meanwhile, backers of the Senate’s audit have organized their own such door-to-door efforts.

Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman said she did not know if the people knocking on doors around Prescott are working on behalf of a political organization, but raised concerns that information residents provide could result in identity theft.

Share

“Get Ready for the Shitstorm That Will Follow the Arizona ‘Recount'”

Tim Miller for The Bulwark:

Sometime soon the results of the Arizona audit will be brought forth. It seems quite likely, given the participants, that the auditor ninjas will claim that Donald Trump won Arizona. Or probably won Arizona—who can say! Or would have won Arizona, if not for those meddling kids.

And if this happens, the former president and his MAGA media echo chamber will once again stoke the flames of insurrection. Q-adherents will convince themselves that one of the seven seals has been revealed. Millions (tens of millions) of Republicans throughout the country will believe it. And some of them will demand action.

So when the Arizona audit bell tolls, what exactly is McConnell and McCarthy’s plan?

Because it sure looks as though they are dooming us all to repeat the same history we just lived through, humoring Trump’s delusions and hoping that none of their supporters die in their imaginary fight for freedom this time.

Share

“G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’”

NYT:

The Texas legislation, which Democrats blocked but Republicans plan to revive in a special session, is one of a series of Republican voting bills that would disproportionately affect people with disabilities. The Wisconsin Senate approved three last week with more to come, though unlike in Texas, the governor there is a Democrat and is expected to veto them. Georgia and Florida have enacted similar measures.

For years, advocates have worked to mobilize Americans with disabilities — more than 38 million of whom are eligible to vote, according to researchers at Rutgers University — into a voting bloc powerful enough to demand that politicians address their needs. Now, after an election in which mail-in voting helped them turn out in large numbers, the restrictive proposals are simultaneously threatening their rights and testing their nascent political influence.

“It’s only been the last few years that there have been studies done showing that if candidates would appeal to issues that the disability community cares about, there is such a thing as the disability vote,” said Bob Kafka, an organizer with Rev Up Texas, which aims to increase turnout among disabled Texans. “That’s why you’re seeing it playing out in Georgia and here and other places where the disability community is part of the larger fight against voter suppression.”

The fight also underscores the degree to which disability rights, once championed both by Democrats like former Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Republicans like former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, have become one more partisan football, even though there are millions of disabled voters in both parties.

The most recent version of the Texas bill would ban drive-through voting, further limit absentee voting in a state that already has strict eligibility rules, and let poll watchers record video of voters as purported evidence of wrongdoing. Disability rights advocates worry that partisan poll watchers will misinterpret legal accommodations — like a worker helping a disabled voter complete a ballot, or a blind voter using a screen reader — as fraud.

Share

Symposium on Ranked-Choice Voting

The journal Politics and Governance has devoted its most recent issue to a series of empirical studies of RCV:

The Politics, Promise and Peril of Ranked Choice Voting (2021, Volume 9, Issue 2)
Edited by Caroline Tolbert
Complete issue: www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/issue/view/251

Table of Contents:

Editor’s Introduction: The Promise and Peril of Ranked Choice Voting
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/4385
By Caroline J. Tolbert and Daria Kuznetsova

Ranked Choice Voting in Australia and America: Do Voters Follow Party Cues?
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3889
By Benjamin Reilly

Using Campaign Communications to Analyze Civility in Ranked Choice Voting Elections
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/4293
By Martha Kropf

Demographic Disparities Using Ranked-Choice Voting? Ranking Difficulty, Under-Voting, and the 2020 Democratic Primary
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3913
By Joseph A. Coll

The Impact of Input Rules and Ballot Options on Voting Error: An Experimental Analysis
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3938
By J. S. Maloy and Matthew Ward

Ranked Choice Voting and Youth Voter Turnout: The Roles of Campaign Civility and Candidate Contact
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3914
By Courtney L. Juelich and Joseph A. Coll

Election Reform and Women’s Representation: Ranked Choice Voting in the U.S.
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3924
By Cynthia Richie Terrell, Courtney Lamendola and Maura Reilly

Variants of Ranked-Choice Voting from a Strategic Perspective
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3955
By Jack Santucci

Lessons from the Use of Ranked Choice Voting in American Presidential Primaries
www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3960
By Rob Richie, Benjamin Oestericher, Deb Otis and Jeremy Seitz-Brown

Share

June 16 Event: “Want Free and Fair Elections in the U.S.? It’s Not Just About Election Day”

Details:

Preventing election violence requires a holistic perspective, which includes mobilizing community leaders, utilizing law enforcement effectively, and structuring the election laws to discourage hyperpolarization. Join AfP on June 16th to hear from our panelists who will examine various initiatives that sought to prevent election violence in 2020 and discuss what more needs to be done moving forward.

Speakers

Larry Garber (Moderator), Independent Election Consultant and Senior Fellow, Alliance for Peacebuilding
Alexandra Chandler, Policy Advocate, Protect Democracy and Coordinator of the National Task Force on Election Crisis
Kevin Johnson, Executive Director, Election Reformers Network
Nathan Stock, Political Violence Mitigation Manager, The Carter Center

Share

Statutory Interpretation Case Decided Today

Today the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Terry v. United States, interpreting the First Step Act.

Scotusblog commentary is here and begins as follows:

Justices reject sentencing reductions for some crack-cocaine offenders

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that people convicted of certain low-level crack-cocaine offenses are not eligible for sentencing reductions under the First Step Act, a 2018 law that made some criminal-justice reforms retroactive. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the court in Terry v. United States.


In my view, the most interesting thing about the Court’s opinions is Justice Sotomayor’s lengthy footnote explaining that she refuses to join Part I (i.e., the facts and background section of the opinion!) because “it includes an unnecessary, incomplete, and sanitized history of the 100-to-1 ratio [for crack versus powder cocaine sentences].” The footnote is noteworthy both for its frank acknowledgment of the racial implications of the ratio and because of how rare it is for individual Justices to refuse to join Part I of a statutory interpretation opinion. Indeed, Justice Sotomayor’s refusal calls to mind another memorable Part I in a statutory interpretation case that two majority-opinion-joining Justices refused to sign onto: Justice Blackmun’s majority opinion in Flood v. Kuhn, the baseball case that famously began with a Part I that was essentially an Ode to Baseball. Thomas’s Part I in Terry v. United States is no Ode to the 100-to-1 ratio, but it joins Justice Blackmun’s Part I in Flood as a rare example of a background section that offended sufficiently to prompt judicial distancing.

Share

June 21 AEI Event: “How can we strengthen trust in the integrity of presidential elections?”

This looks important:

Distrust of the results of presidential elections has been particularly intense in recent years. Many Democrats believed Donald Trump won the 2016 election through interference by Russian disinformation campaigns, and an even larger percentage of Republicans believe Democrats stole the 2020 presidential contest. This denial of election results is indisputably corrosive to the American political system’s long-term well-being.

Please join AEI’s Kevin R. Kosar and a panel of experts as they discuss various ways to strengthen the public’s trust in the results of our presidential elections.

LIVE Q&A: Submit questions to Elayne.Allen@aei.org or on Twitter with #AEIElectionSecurity.

Agenda

10:00 AM
Introduction:
Kevin R. Kosar, Resident Scholar, AEI

10:05 AM
Discussion

Panelists:
David Becker, Executive Director, Center for Election Innovation & Research
Daniel A. Cox, Resident Scholar, AEI
John C. Fortier, Resident Scholar, AEI
Justin Ryan Grimmer, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University
Kevin Johnson, Executive Director, Election Reformers Network

Moderator:
Kevin R. Kosar, Resident Scholar, AEI

11:00 AM
Q&A

11:30 AM
Adjournment

Share

“In Congress, Republicans Shrug at Warnings of Democracy in Peril”

NYT:

Senator Christopher S. Murphy concedes that political rhetoric in the nation’s capital can sometimes stray into hysteria, but when it comes to the precarious state of American democracy, he insisted he was not exaggerating the nation’s tilt toward authoritarianism.

“Democrats are always at risk of being hyperbolic,” said Mr. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “I don’t think there’s a risk when it comes to the current state of democratic norms.”

After the norm-shattering presidency of Donald J. Trump, the violence-inducing bombast over a stolen election, the pressuring of state vote counters, the Capitol riot and the flood of voter curtailment laws rapidly being enacted in Republican-run states, Washington has found itself in an anguished state.

Almost daily, Democrats warn that Republicans are pursuing racist, Jim Crow-inspired voter suppression efforts to disenfranchise tens of millions of citizens, mainly people of color, in a cynical effort to grab power. Metal detectors sit outside the House chamber to prevent lawmakers — particularly Republicans who have boasted of their intention to carry guns everywhere — from bringing weaponry to the floor. Democrats regard their Republican colleagues with suspicion, believing that some of them collaborated with the rioters on Jan. 6.

Republican lawmakers have systematically downplayed or dismissed the dangers, with some breezing over the attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful protest, and many saying the state voting law changes are to restore “integrity” to the process, even as they give credence to Mr. Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election.

They shrug off Democrats’ warnings of grave danger as the overheated language of politics as usual.

“I haven’t understood for four or five years why we are so quick to spin into a place where part of the country is sure that we no longer have the strength to move forward, as we always have in the past,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, noting that the passions of Republican voters today match those of Democratic voters after Mr. Trump’s triumph. “Four years ago, there were people in the so-called resistance showing up in all of my offices every week, some of whom were chaining themselves to the door.”

For Democrats, the evidence of looming catastrophe mounts daily. Fourteen states, including politically competitive ones like Florida and Georgia, have enacted 22 laws to curtail early and mail-in ballots, limit polling places and empower partisans to police polling, then oversee the vote tally. Others are likely to follow, including Texas, with its huge share of House seats and electoral votes.

Because Republicans control the legislatures of many states where the 2020 census will force redistricting, the party is already in a strong position to erase the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House. Even moderate voting-law changes could bolster Republicans’ chances for the net gain of one vote they need to take back the Senate.

And in the nightmare outcome promulgated by some academics, Republicans have put themselves in a position to dictate the outcome of the 2024 presidential election if the voting is close in swing states.

Share

“Garland announces expansion of Justice Department’s voting rights unit, vowing to scrutinize GOP-backed voting restrictions and ballot reviews”

WaPo:

Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged Friday to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff to combat efforts to restrict ballot access and prosecute those who threaten or harm election workers.

In an expansive speech that invoked the nation’s long and, at times, faltering progress toward ensuring every American’s right to vote, Garland likened the fight against efforts to curtail ballot access to past campaigns enshrining voting rights for Black Americans in the Constitution and the seminal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Garland said the additional trial attorneys, which he plans to hire over the coming 30 days, will scrutinize new laws and existing practices across the nation for potential discrimination against Americans of color, including in new measures GOP state lawmakers are pushing. They will enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act by challenging such laws or practices in court — and prosecute anyone found to intimidate or threaten violence against election officials.

Share